Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Countdown to 2017 Topps #14: On the Heels of Greatness

It's not easy to follow greatness. Just ask Aaron Rodgers. Or Steve Young. Or... well, maybe it's not as difficult as we might expect. On second thought, for every John Elway, there's a Tommy Maddox' for every Steve Young, there's a Jim Druckenmiller. We're now officially two weeks from new 2017 baseball product hitting the streets. The bar was set low last year, in the eyes of many collectors. Will Topps 'top' last year's flagship? 

Not many professional athletes who are looked upon to succeed a legend have a choice in the matter. Sure, there are free-agents who get to decide where they will be playing for the next x years, but I would say most of those replacing a legendary player are brought in via the draft. And as we all know, the pressure put on such draftees is enormous, with not many living up to the expectations placed upon them.

Topps painted itself in a corner for card number 514 in the 1979 set and it had nothing to do with the design or the player featured on the card. Well, I guess that, in a sense, it did have to do with the player. Let me explain.

For its 1977 and 1978 releases, Topps featured players wearing the quintessential '70s uniform- that glorious Tequila Sunrise worn by the Houston Astros. After featuring Cliff Johnson on card number 514 in the '77 set, there was no way they were going to be able to do better than the orange and red for its '78 set, so the company maintained the status quo and used another Astro for the 'cursive script' set. I don't think the company had high expectations in the player succeeding Cliff, a far lesser-known player by the name of Rob Sperring.

When the time came to plan the 1979 Topps baseball checklist, what should they do? A Tequila Trifecta? Topps had a history with three-year runs where they used players from the same team on the same card number, so it wouldn't have surprised anyone. Instead, the card company went with the second iconic 1970s uniform: the Chicago White Sox' collared V-neck pullover. Unfortunately, it wasn't the version with the shorts, but the 'knickerbocker' version.

As for the player to be pictured on this all-important card? Chet Lemon...Ralph Garr...Wilbur Wood... any one of those three would have been perfectly acceptable. Topps decided to go with....Mike Proly?

Would I have done it differently, were it my decision? Proly. No, most definitely.

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